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Education system in the UK - Can anyone guide me please?

(24 Posts)
elfinmami Mon 05-Oct-09 17:10:50

Hi Everyone,

We intend to move to the UK with a 3 year old bilungual on tow. I did some search on the internet re. schooling but it is quite confusing when one is not familiar with the system. Could someone be helpful on these topics, I much appreciate it.

1. What is the difference between preparatory and primary schools?
2. At what age do children start school (not a nursery)?
3. What is this issue about summer and winter children? Can they not start at the same time even if the child is slightly younger, say two/three months?
5. What do I ask when considering a school?
6. Most important: Could anyone recommend a good school. Any location near an airport/big to mid town will be considered.

Many thanks.

primarymum Mon 05-Oct-09 17:20:29

1.Prep schools are private ( ie you pay to go) and primary schools are not
2.most children start school the september after they are 4 but not always, this can vary from authority to authority
3.No, the school year runs from September to September, so a child born on 31 august will be in a different year group to a child born on 1st September
4. ?
5. Does the ethos suit you and your child, are the children happy and interested in what they are doing, do they seem to make progress from whatever level they are at
6. You will need to narrow the search area down!

seeyounexttuesday Mon 05-Oct-09 17:23:49

number 2.. They must be in education the term after their 5th birthday. This may or may not be at school.

5. Whereabouts in this country are you thinking?

LIZS Mon 05-Oct-09 17:29:06

1.Prep schools are independent ie fee paying , most primary schools (aka infant/juiors/middle) are state run.
2.They start at rising 5 ie the year they turn 5 between Sept 1st and August 31st in Reception. School year runs from September.
3.Autumn born children are the eldest in the year group and are felt to have an advantage by starting at almost 5 rather than just 4. Some schools take all in Septmeber others also have a January or even more occasionally an Easter intake so the dc start closer to being 5.
5.Lots of thread about questions ie class sizes/staff ratio, extra curricular activities, addtional support on offer ie literacy, proportion non native English speakers. Ofsted reports for state schools will provide some information as a starign point.
6.You need to decide on an area to live in and visit - reports and recommendations are all very well but it may not suit you or your dc.

btw if he turns 4 before next September you need to think asap as applications in some areas will close this month and you need ot be resident by then to apply. Otherwise you may not get a choice at all, rather be allocated a place wherever there is space.

gruber Mon 05-Oct-09 17:36:24

I would second LIZS urgency about places. If you are a Forces family and relocating, then some authorities will hold a place if you let them know (in my local area, they accept applications for Forces families until 18th December). Otherwise, you will probably not get a choice as Liz says. HTH.

elfinmami Mon 05-Oct-09 20:24:18

Many thanks for your replies. Really nice of you.

What I read on the internet that school starting age in the UK was as young as 3,5 which made me a bit worried. But then again, what do you do with a bright kid who takes just a single day to learn alphabet?

Sorry, I forgot that No.4 was

How do I determine the catchment area?

Areas in consideration was Surrey, Cambridge, Leeds or York. But I think we are going to check into Surrey area in more detail.

Recommendation anyone on any primaries there?

Thanks a million.

gruber Mon 05-Oct-09 20:32:47

Catchment area is done by Local Authority (LA). If you are thinking of Surrey the link to their primary admissions guide is here

To be honest, you really need to pin down where before you can go much further - catchment is very very local - by streets rather than towns here.

Sorry I can't be more useful at this stage!

elfinmami Mon 05-Oct-09 20:41:51

Thanks gruber.

Oh God, I thought the birth was difficult

Seems like our living quarter will depend on the school. So I first need to find a good reputed school and then move next door

LIZS Mon 05-Oct-09 21:43:02

Surrey is one of the early applications - usually by October half term for following September. There aren't fixed catchments in the area of Surrey we live in , it is down to demand and distance from school. We also have an infant and junior system , very few combined primary schools, so you have to apply again at 7 for a junior school place.

Rebeccaj Tue 06-Oct-09 13:23:00

Surrey primary applications have to be in by Oct 22nd; you need a council tax reference for the property you live in as your main residence for the application.

Surrey is also a big area ;-) But Weybridge, Walton, Esher, Claygate, Epsom, all have good schools. Some are combined primary (serving 4-11) some (probably 30-50% in those areas) are infants then juniors (serving 4-7 then 7-11). We're in Epsom and it's about 45 mins to Heathrow and Gatwick in the early morning.

mumofsatan Wed 07-Oct-09 07:15:38

If you are thinking Surrey and want to be near an airport then perhaps Horley (a few miles from Gatwick) or a bit further our would be Felbridge (right on the Surrey/Sussex border) parts of Felbridge are very expensive although nearby Crawley Down (in Sussex) is cheaper but apparently Felbridge infant school is excellent and I know of some people who moved into the area so their DC could go there. Also, one of the mums from DC's old prep (private) school moved their children from the private school to Felbridge infant/first school so one would hope it is very good.

If you are thinking of possibly going private, then Redehall school in Smallfield (Horley, Surrey) is excellent. A very small prep school from 3 to 11 but MUCH cheaper than other prep schools. DCs 1 and 2 went to a different (EXPENSIVE!) private school a few miles away from it and I've just registered DC3 and 4 for Redehall as was thoroughly impressed when DH and I looked around it. Lovely little village school

elfinmami Wed 07-Oct-09 11:33:31

Hello all,

I am thrilled by your answers. Many thanks. We are considering private but as I found out it may turn out to be unaffordable on the long run. And it would be terrible to take a small child out from the environment she is used to. I do not want to change schools so need to make the selection carefully. I will check into Redehall school online and once we are on an exploratory tour for schools/homes in the area, I shall try to visit too. I presume there are some hidden costs in the annual fees that one need to pay every now and then and that we would not be able to.

Regarding council tax, does one get it even if you rent a flat? We do not want to buy something in a hurry for the sake of the school.

Wishing you a nice day to all of you.

Sparks Wed 07-Oct-09 12:23:51

Yes you have to pay council tax when you are renting a flat. The reason they ask for the reference number is to check that you really live at the address you put on the form. The council would probably accept some other proof of address if you had just moved in.

mumofsatan Wed 07-Oct-09 13:16:26

good luck elfinmami, its a really difficult decision. We are abroad at the moment due to DH's work but are seriously thinking of returning to the UK sooner rather than later (DC 1 and 2 are at boarding school in the UK) and I really want to get DC3 aged 3 back into the UK system from day 1.

Where are you moving from?

LIZS Wed 07-Oct-09 17:51:47

Gatwick/ Horley/East Grinstead area normally has a good selection of properties to rent (starting around £550pcm for a 1 bed flat) and some nice primary schools and preschools. Personally I'd be wary of Redehall as it is so small as to barely seem viable but it is much cheaper than other private schools in the area (about 50% less) and has been going some years. Uniform and extra curricular activities such as music would be extra. Secondary is very hit and miss but you are some way off that and it is improving. Council tax is payable based on the value of the property by the occupant(s) regardless of whether you own it or not and rent would exclude utility bills.

elfinmami Wed 07-Oct-09 22:06:26

I am confused after reading other threads about schooling in the UK. Is it really that bad that people have to put their kids to private?

We are moving from Germany where children start school pretty late. If we don't move now, my one will never make up the gap later on.

Perhaps someone can tell me what do they teach/play in their reception year should we delay the move. Children are in the nursery here until they are 6. Good for slow developers, bad for the sprinters. Same issue, as a parent, you can't draw the line.

LIZS Thu 08-Oct-09 08:41:24

There are good schools and not so good, both state and private , just as in most countries.

Reception(first year of primary school at age 4-5) is the final year of the Early Years curriculum/Foundation Stage . Although it is learning through play based activities it introduces the basics of academics such as letter formation, phonic sounds and early reading, listening and retelling stories, starting to write, concepts of numbers and shapes etc plus the formality of school life like pe and assemblies. If you try to enter at Year 1 you won't be able to express a preference of school , it will be a case of wherever there is place maybe local , maybe further away , maybe a good one, maybe not so. Some private schools will already be full although given the economy you may well get a place at short notice if someone moves or withdraws.

mumofsatan Thu 08-Oct-09 10:27:58

Lizs, really interested to know why you'd be wary of Redehall as I thought it had a good reputation. Its not one of the bigger schools and I'd never heard about it until DS1 now 16 was 4 and we made the decision to educate privately. A friend who was a teacher put her DD there and by the time we made enquiries the waiting list was 2 years long.
DS1 therefore went to a nearby prep school which as you say was double the cost. It was excellent and DD1 went there and originally we'd planned for DD2 and DS2 to go there but in the summer looked at Redehall and were really impressed. Obviously they don't have the same facilities as other prep schools and its only until age 11 whereas the one DCs 1 and 2 went to was til 13.

Would really appreciate any information/advice you may have as although DD2 and DS2 were registered for the prep school their brother and sister went to, we've just registered them for Redehall and am now wondering whether that was the right decision. (from a realistic point of view, if DD2 and DS2 go to Redehall we can possibly afford for them to go to Hurst when they leave where DS1 is now but if they go to the more expensive prep school that may not be an option sad
sorry for mini hijac OP grin

peanutbutterkid Thu 08-Oct-09 10:49:54

"Is it really that bad that people have to put their kids to private?"

The answer is complicated.
If you move to a relatively "nice" area, the local primary school will tend to be quite good; the relatively stable/prosperous background of most families in the area has a knock-on effect in the attitude of children to learning/ability to value education.

A lot of private education is done to hot-house (ensure they can pass the entry exams for the most selective private secondaries); to shield children from the bad influences of the riffraff; to give them more individual attention and/or specific opportunties (like a large range of extra-curric activities); or so that individuals establish a network of contacts from an early age that may help them to succeed later in life.

I don't know about worrying about 'Catchup'. Plenty of children in the English system don't learn to read before Yr2, my strong guess is that you'll find the average educational attainment at age 6-7 is not that different at all between Germany/England.

Are there not private schools in Germany?

LIZS Thu 08-Oct-09 16:00:27

We visited 8+ years ago so I think it has expanded since and my view is purely a personal opinion. They had combined age classes when we looked around, operating rather like a traditional small village school. The head never followed up our visit which I did find odd.

It does have a good reputation, particularly with quieter natured children, but the numbers are so small, opportunities for sport, music ensembles etc and socially are more limited than among a larger cohort. Also at the moment with people reviewing their finances, smaller private school are becoming vulnerable (at least 2 in the area have closed/been taken over in the past 5 or so years) but maybe their fees are low enough to maintain the roll and cover costs.

mumofsatan Thu 08-Oct-09 16:38:39

Thanks for that Lizs. I think the headmistress we met in the summer had only been there a few years so hopefully not the one you met.
I agree ref the lack of opportunities for sport etc and this did, initially, put me off. The prep school DC 1 and 2 went to had excellent sporting facilities but at a price. It was also very handy as they had longer days and I could drop off at 7.45am and pick up at 6pm which was very useful as I worked long hours. I've now pretty much decided I'm not returning to work (well at least not in my old profession) when I return to the UK and quite like the idea of picking up at 3pm and actually meeting other mums. I'm sure there must be numerous after school activities that I can enrol DCs 3 and 4 in.

It is really helpful to hear other peoples views on schools though as obviously it is a really big decision. Also interested in the 2 schools that had closed down in the area. Assume you are in the Surrey/Sussex area from some of your other posts and would be interested to know which schools these are. Think I'd heard a rumour about one in a little Sussex village (can't remember the name) that had closed or was closing.

Are there any you can specifically recommend near the Horley/Crawley area?

LIZS Thu 08-Oct-09 16:55:50

We've moved further out of that area now. One was Doods Brow, another more recently in Oxted , quite possibly others in the area may have too. Burys Court might be worth a look but don't know the private schools in that area well otherwise.

mumofsatan Thu 08-Oct-09 17:07:59

thanks for that. Not heard of Doods Brow. I'd forgotten about Burys Court. Looked at that for DS1 around 13 years ago but didn't really like it. Seem to recall the headmaster was a little odd and the school smelt a bit funny wink

elfinmami Fri 16-Oct-09 15:28:56

Hello all,

We are planning to come to the UK in November to have a look at schools around Surrey area.

I have gone through the list on Surrey council's website but unless one knows the school it doesn't tell much, well at least to me. What are those scoring based on; children's achievements, or the activities school has to offer?

I have also read this top ranking for South Farnham School. Does anyone knows anything about it?

peanutbutterkid, there are private schools in Germany, in fact plentiful but nearly half of them do not have a good reputation, never mind the monthly high fees. Sometimes the norm is, rich families send their lazy offsprings there, so that they can at least have a diploma. I do not wish such thing for my one.

The UK education somehow has a good reputation here. There was a programme on TV the other day re. Ellesmere boarding school (far too expensive for us). A family paid ?90K for their son's two years of education who ended up "Diplom not granted" at the end. Auch!!!

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